Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Just a Dog? I Beg to Differ

A great quote from Chief Seattle: "What is a man without the beasts? If all the beasts were gone, man would die from a great loneliness of the spirit. For what happens to the beasts, soon happens to man. All things are connected."


Monday, May 30, 2011

It's Swimming Season!

Memorial Day is the official start of swimming season around here and my dogs have already been waterlogged!
This is Miss Phoebe wrapped in a towel after much excitement about getting into the water for the first swim of the summer. She may not be able to walk for a few days after all her jumping around but ask her and I am sure she will tell you it was well worth it!

That's Sam fetching a tennis ball which is pretty much where he spends the whole summer--back and forth at least twenty times a day! Pure bliss. . .

And here is Mr. Amos cooling off in the shade after a few dips in the pool on a steamy afternoon. He is the most graceful swimmer of the bunch and his itchy skin is so grateful for the cool water!

In short, the dogs days may not be upon us quite yet but don't tell these guys!
Happy Memorial Day!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Flipping for a Friend

Sometimes you just need a little push to get back on your feet. After all, that's what friends are for.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Belmont Prospects

Well it is official. Barring injury, Animal Kingdom is Belmont bound and will head to the Big Apple sometime during the week of June 6, in plenty of time for the June 11 race.

"We just made the decision that he will be coming to the Belmont," said trainer Graham Motion. "He bounced out of the Preakness very well and we are looking forward to running in the Belmont Stakes."

As for Shackleford, well he is training for the Belmont as if he was running, according to trainer Dale Romans, and will ship to New York from Churchill Downs sometime in the next couple of days. The final decision as to whether to run Shackleford in the race will not come until he has a work over the Belmont track which should happen this week.

Of course, if the two of them run it will set up a re-match of their Preakness duel and lend some excitement to the race in a year without a Triple Crown prospect. Don't rule out Nehro or Master of Hounds either.

Other possible starters include Mucho Macho Man, Santiva, Brilliiant Speed, Stay Thirsty, all Derby veterans and Ruler on Ice, Prime Cut, Isn't He Perfect.

Stay tuned. This could be a great race!

Friday, May 27, 2011

New Book on Dog Behavior

Terry Gross had a fabulous interview yesterday with Dr. John Bradshaw, author of a new book on dog behavior called Dog Sense: How the New Science of Dog Behavior Can Make You A Better Friend to Your Pet.

One interesting piece of advice has to do with how to get your dogs not to jump up on people. First rule of thumb: Do not physically reprimand a dog for this behavior because dogs see any form of attention as a reward. Better to turn your back on the dog and pretend the dog is in a different room. (Easier said than done especially if the dog is attacking visitors but you get the idea). "Most dogs require their owners' attention [and]they want their owners' attention," he says. "They want people's attention in general. And withdrawing that is a very powerful signal to the dog."

It turns out that dog are one of the most perceptive species on the planet when it comes to interpreting our body language, facial gestures and actually are quite good at learning from us. It also turns out that "most dogs, given the choice, will actually prefer human company to other dog company."

The downside of this is that dogs do not like to be left alone. You should acclimate them slowly to this behavior by creating a pattern for your departure that rarely varies. It also helps to gradually build up the time that you are away, beginning with as little as one or two minutes. That way they get the idea that you are coming back, especially when you do so and make a big fuss over seeing them.

John Bradshaw has studied the behavior of domestic dogs and cats for over a quarter of a century and is the director of the Anthozoology Institute at the University of Bristol in the UK.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Barbaro's Newest Bro

New photos of the newest brother to Barbaro born on May 18, courtesy of Mill Ridge Farm, where mother and baby are doing splendidly.

We seem to remember the name Sereno as being next in line but we will have to wait a while before we get official word on that. For the time being, la Ville Rouge, Boy number 4!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Richardson Weighs In on Triple Crown

While the horses are still sorting themselves out for the Belmont, I thought it might be educational to revisit a recent article from the New York Times (May 17) in which Dean Richardson, Barbaro's surgeon and an excellent horseman, expresses his opinion on racing 2 and 3 year olds, while their bones are still technically developing.

To set the record straight, Richardson does not mince words. "It is a fact that colts and fillies that race as 2-year olds perform better than those who start racing later," he says. "Athleticism and maturation are determined predominantly by genetic factors." Training is important to keep your horse healthy but training is not going to make a horse a champion if he does not have the ability.

"Proper training and conditioning in young thoroughbreds prepares them better for what they are being asked to do: genuinely hard work. It is unequivocally more likely for a horse to have certain types of injuries if they are a racehorse. There is no getting around that. But keep in mind that horses that simply live in pastures and do no work at all may break a leg or otherwise injure themselves," he continues.

As for the big question as to whether or not competing in the Triple Crown races puts younger horses at risk, Richardson comments: "There is no answer in a scientific sense. Anecdotally and historically, it is clear that horses in the past raced this frequently on a regular basis. Today's thoroughbreds do not race as often as they did decades ago. Some say it is an indication that today's thoroughbreds have been selected too aggressively for speed and not soundness."

To those who worry about the distance of the Triple Crown races, I only note that the Preakness is /16 of a mile shorter than the Kentucky Derby. It is the Belmont, at 1 1/2 miles that is the true test of champions since there are few races at that distance on the American racing calendar.

And therein is the true answer. To win the Triple Crown, a horse has to be a champion and those are few and far between. Putting the races farther apart by a week or changing the age limitations is not going to make true champions appear any more quickly. You either have it or you don't and if you have it, you can win three races at three different distances at three different tracks, five weeks apart, at the age of 3.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Laminiti Research

With the Kentucky Derby come the inevitable remembrances of horses past, including Barbaro. There was a nice piece in the Kansas City Herald-Leader about his legacy, which unfortunately does not include any progeny.

But what it does include is a united and well funded effort to find a cure for laminitis, the hoof disease that ultimately led to Barbaro's demise. "His greatest legacy is simply awareness. . . awareness of a disease that scares vets and owners more than any other," said Peggy Hendershot, spokeswoman for national Thoroughbred Racing Association Charities, which administers the NTRA Barbaro Fund.

According to the piece, $7.5 million has been raised for the Barbaro Fund at Penn's New Bolton Center, pledged in 4,100 donations, large and small. "It's amazing, " said Jane Simone, director of development at New Bolton Center. "One of the things worth pointing out is so many of the gifts were from people who didn't own horses, who didn't live in the horse world but who were moved by his story and wanted to do something in his name."

Some of that money is going to needs of patients in the equine hospital; other is being used for renovation of the facility. And still more, anchored by a gift of $3 million from owners Roy and Gretchen Jackson, is being used to find a cure for laminitis.

In fact, researchers at Penn have set 2020 as the year by which they are determined to find a cure for laminitis. "We know there are a wide range of causes, but what we don't know is 'What is the trigger?' and 'How do you stop it?'" aid Simone. "We know how to slow it but it often comes back. There are mysteries that have to be unraveled."

Here's one goal that I hope they beat.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Preakness Thoughts

A surely as the Preakness follows the Derby, racing pundits revisit the question of timing in the Triple Crown events. Is the Preakness too close to the Derby? Should they add an extra week? Are we over breeding horses for speed versus stamina? And the inevitable, will we ever see a Triple Crown winner again?

Personally, I think we came awfully close on Saturday. Take nothing away from Animal Kingdom; he ran an amazing race. More importantly he was given an amazing ride by Johnny Velasquez, who in my opinion, is the best in the business today. Shackleford liked the shorter distance and I do believe Animal Kingdom would have caught him in another jump.

But take nothing away from the winner. Despite getting all worked up, Shackleford ran away with the victory, wire to wire, setting blazing fractions for the first quarter.

I will admit I had the exacta but only because I truly felt those two horses were the best in the field and I still maintain that Animal Kingdom is the best of this year's bunch. That is one very nice horse and I hope he stays healthy to claim the Travers as well.

As for the Belmont, well don't look for Shackleford. He should be spent after Saturday. I hear rumors that Master of Hounds may make a return trip stateside and I would not discount him either at the longer distance, coming off the turf in Europe. I think it is 50-50 whether or not Animal Kingdom runs in the Belmont, but I wouldn't be surprised if he sits that one out. I do know he is back at Fair Hill, being a horse.

As for the timing of races, the Triple Crown is elusive because it takes a once in a lifetime horse. Barbaro was probably the closest we have come in a long time--just because everything was so easy for him. Those horses are few and far between, and as history has proven, worth the wait.

If they change the rules, it won't mean the same thing. So I think we are just going to have to continue to wait.

In the meantime, I am on a mean handicapping streak so stay tuned for my Belmont predictions!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Spring Has Sprung--Complete with Rabbits!

It has been a glorious spring here--allergies have been fierce but the flowers are beautiful as you can see.

The lilac bush above has never bloomed so profusely and it smells heavenly. Still waiting for the peonies which are right next to it to burst.

The azaleas flowered just in time for Mother's Day and then put on quite a show for the entire week afterward.
And then when my eyes were captivated by the blooms a bursting, Sam discovered what has captivated him ever since--an underground nest of rabbits--yet again.
This time, I put the slightly elevated pet bed (bought for Phoebe's hips but only now proving itself truly useful!) right on top of the nest and then just leaned the pieces of the baby gate around it.

Most of the time the pieces are just laying on top of the bed, allowing mother to come and go, and so far, keeping paws and snoots out.
However, Sam is a twitter constantly and I caught him the other day standing on top of the bed looking down!

And then the other night, the piece de resistance, Miss Phoebe has taken over as the official den mother. Is she stalking them or guarding them?

I am trying not to get too attached. We know how these events usually end. Silly rabbits. Who builds a nest in the middle of a yard with three huge dogs??

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Preakness Day

It is Preakness Day and my money is going to be on Animal Kingdom. I love the trainer; I love the fact that he is shipping in early this morning and the fact that Graham Motion is pleased with how his horse has prepared for the race. I truly do think he is the best horse in the race and the one to beat.

That said, Shackleford deserves some scrutiny, especially since he likes a sloppy track. We have had the most bizarre weather here all week so who knows what the track will be. Chances are by the time they run they race it will be dry and approaching fast. That is, unless we get a late day thunderstorm, which cannot be ruled out.

Here is why I truly like what is happening in the Animal Kingdom camp: "I think I've done what I can do and it's really out of my hands now," says Motion. "The nerve-wracking stuff is just getting the training done and just trying to keep things straight. We're to this point where it's really out of my hands; we just get into the races and hope everything goes smoothly."

Spoken like a true horseman.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Barbaro's Brothers

Yesterday was a BIG News day for Fans of Barbaro. First came the wonderful news that there is a new full brother to Barbaro, a colt who was born May 19. Word is that the baby is a big boy and mother, La Ville Rouge and colt are presumed to be doing fine.

Then came the news, via Greg Jone's blog, Family of Barbaro, that Brother #3 Margano, will not be trained by Michael Matz. Instead, Margano has been shipped to Belmont where he is under the tutelage of Barclay Tagg, who also trains for the Jacksons. Barclay Tagg and Gretchen Jackson are childhood friends; they went to school together and the Jacksons have traditionally split their horses between the two trainers.

What is different is that the Jacksons have also traditionally kept horses of the same family with the same trainer. That is how Michael Matz ended up with Nicanor and Lentenor. It is unusual for them to change their pattern but certainly not unheard of.

Mrs. Jackson has always had a special feeling about this "baby." If you remember he was the one who needed surgery right after he was born and I think since then, she has had a special spot in her heart for him. It is certainly an owner's right to choose what ever trainer they wish and maybe they felt it was time to share the "wealth" so to speak.

Tagg has been an on again off again presence at Fair Hill so I think the fact that, for the moment, he is based at Belmont, may have actually made the decision a little easier. It would indeed be difficult to change trainers if the two were in close proximity to each other.

The photo above, from Greg's blog, shows Margano on the track at Belmont. He is all the way on the right and certainly looks like a big, strapping fellow. Keep your eyes open for him to make his maiden debut in the Fall if he shows promise.

Four boys...I know lightening rarely strikes twice, but I know the Jacksons are hoping that one of them has the "right stuff." And I know they keep wishing for that elusive filly. . .

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Preakness Post Positions

The field is set for the Preakness on Saturday May 21. Post time is 6:05 EST and NBC will be carrying the race, live. Here are the post positions:

No. 1. Astrology
No. 2 Norman Asborjson
No. 3 King Congie
No. 4 Flashpoint
No. 5 Shackleford
No. 6 Sway Away
No. 7 Midnight Interlude
No. 8 Dance City
No. 9 Mucho Macho Man
No. 10 Dialed In
No. 11 Animal Kingdom
No. 12 Isn't He Perfect
No. 13 Concealed Identity
No. 12 Mr. Commons

The forecast is for showers and it has been raining here all week. The track may not be sloppy but it will definitely be influenced by the weather. They will do their best to dry it out and harrow it, but I don't think it will be legitimate "fast" if that is what they decide to label it.

That said, I think that Animal Kingdom drew the exact post he wanted. Trainer Graham Motion let it be known that he did not want to be anywhere near the rail and Lady Luck cooperated. I also like his plan to ship Animal Kingdom the short distance (40 Miles) from Fair Hill to Pimlico on Saturday morning, to let him take advantage of his bucolic surroundings. "Everything has come really smoothly," he told the Sun News. "He's kind of dictated what I do with him and he was ready to start doing more. That's why we're doing more with him now. He'll probably have a couple of strong gallops leading up to the race."

During the rain, Animal Kingdom has been working on the synthetic surface at Fair Hill, a tapeta track. Personally, I think he is the horse to beat and my money is going to be on him.

But for those who prefer other choices, Shackleford deserves close attention as does Mucho Macho Man. I think Flashpoint will set early fractions and burn himself out. Astrology is moving way up in class and Norman, the home town hero is, in my opinion, a bit out of his league. Dialed In and Midnight Interlude were both disappointing in the Derby. Mr. Commons has much to prove.

I'm leaning toward an Animal Kingdom-Shackleford exacta but then again, I bet a lot of people are leaning the same way.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Sometimes It Just Tickles

Sometimes laughter is the best medicine for whatever ails you!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Hello, What's Your Name?

Walking in the dog park, Amos and Sam and I meet a lot of people, dogs and occasionally kids. Sam is not too enamored of the smaller set but wise parents always instruct their kids how to greet an unfamiliar dog. And even though I am 100% sure my dogs would never harm anyone (bark maybe and then run behind me is their usual behavior), it is important to teach others about how to greet new dogs.

While I always was instructed to offer my hand for sniffing, preferably the back of it, before petting or reaching for new dogs, these tips below, culled from dogster.com, are even better:

1. Turn your body sideways - While it is normal and acceptable for humans to greet each other face to face, polite dog greetings generally involve angling and arcing the body. Turning your body sideways will make you less intimidating to the dog.

2. Consider bending low – If a dog is nervous, he may feel more comfortable if you slowly crouch down (body still oriented sideways) and wait for him to approach you.

3. Avoid direct eye contact initially – Dog trainers get lots of practice using their peripheral field of vision. Direct, prolonged eye contact can be read as a challenge by both dogs and people.

4. Do not reach toward the dog – Hold your hand at your side, lower than the dog’s head, with your palm facing up. Wait, and allow him to approach to sniff. If he is unsure about you, he may sniff your hand and quickly back away. Do not reach after him as he backs away.

5. Know where to touch the dog – Instinctively, people seem to want to pat dogs on the head. The trouble is, most dogs really don’t like this. Once the dog is actively seeking contact with you, sniffing your hand or perhaps nudging your hand with his nose or cheek, you may pet him.

Dogs like to be petted in different spots but most will accept a gentle pat on the head for a quick hello on the walking path. If dogs are leashed, my experience has been that they may be interested in visiting with your dog than with you and a few sniffs usually suffice!

Happy trails!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Fair Hill Works its Magic

Animal Kingdom has settled nicely into his new Team Valor barn at Fair Hill and we now know his travel plans. He will arrive in Baltimore on Friday, the day before the Preakness. The draw for post positions is on Wednesday at which point we will know the rest of the field.

The race is limited to 14 starters and it is likely that there will be a full house to give the Derby winner a run for his money. At the moment, we know that Derby contenders Mucho Macho Man, Nehro, Shackleford, Santiva and Dialed In will be entered. Likely newcomers include, King Congie--with Animal Kingdom's former jockey Robbie Albarado aboard--Astrology, Dance City, Flashpoint, Norman Asbjornson, Mr. Commons and Ruler on Ice.

Dialed In is gunning for a $5 million bonus, the largest payoff in North American racing history. The bonus, sponsored by MI Developments, would be awarded to the winner of the Preakness who also won the Holy bull and the Florida Derby (that would be Dialed In.)

As for trainer Motion, well he seems very confident in his horse. "Mucho Macho man and Shackleford are going to be very tough," he told the AP. "A couple of the new shooters look very imposing but I don't think I'd want to trade with any of them right now."

In a way, the pressure is on but it isn't. Yes, it would be amazing to have a Triple Crown winner which hasn't happened since 1978. But regardless of how Animal Kingdom fares at Pimlico, he will always be a Kentucky Derby winner.

Not too shabby. . .

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Nicanor 4th At Belmont

Nicanor ran in the Sun Stakes on Thursday--the fourth race at Belmont. He finished fourth in what I thought was a very good race--certainly a very fast pace. He went for the lead early in a lightening fast first quarter, was steadied by his jock and then positioned perfectly to come down the stretch along the rail, which he did. He just ran out of gas.

He wore blinkers, which I think helped him a lot, and he seemed comfortable being held back at the start. Would he have run with the leaders and finished stronger if he had been let go from the beginning?

Hard to say, but I think the race showed that he has matured, and is learning to rate. He clearly likes the turf and this was a good showing in an impressive field.

Nice job Nicky!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Animal Kingdom Arrives At Fair Hill

Courtesy of the Baltimore Sun, Animal Kingdom arrives at Fair Hill where he will stay until the Preakness. Look for him to arrive in Baltimore at the absolute last possible second permitted!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Extreme Sheep

No matter how many times I joke about Amos needing a herd of sheep to feel complete (he is a collie after all) somehow I do not think he could EVER do what these dogs, sheep and shepherds manage to do! Extremely baaa-awe-some.......

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Animal Kingdom Arrives At Fair Hill

Courtesy of the Baltimore Sun, Animal Kingdom arrives at Fair Hill where he will stay until the Preakness. Look for him to arrive in Baltimore at the absolute last possible second permitted!

Anmal Rescue

Barney is a 9 year old beagle who belongs to Ann Staley of Philadelphia. Staley is 78 and lives on a fixed income of $700 a month. Barney needed surgery to remove his ear canals because his chronic ear infections had gotten so bad. The cost of the surgery--to be performed at Penn's Vet Hospital--over $10,000. What's Staley to do?

Go viral. It turns out that Barney's condition was diagnosed at a clinic run by the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. They recommended that the dog be taken to Penn for immediate medical care. Rumor got out that Staley was bullied into taking the animal to Penn, which wasn't true, and that Penn wouldn't release the dog without full payment, which also wasn't true.

In any event, the rumors hit the Internet and donations started pouring in. So far, more than $4000 has been pledged through Barney's Facebook page and other websites. Staley took out a $3700 line of credit and put $1300 of her dog's tab on her credit card. Penn also donated $1000 toward Barney's care and agreed toa short term payment for Staley, something it doesn't normally do.

In any event, Barney is recovering. Staley is looking at paying off more than $5000 of Barney's bills on her own and everyone is happy. "I love that dog. He is so nice and smart," Staley said, her voice breaking. "I tell him, 'A million kisses for a million tomorrows.'"

Moral of the story: get pet insurance when they are puppies.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Preakness Preview

Animal Kingdom seems to be on his way to the Preakness with jockey Johnny Velasquez set to ride, assuming all goes according to plan. Which as we already know is not always the case in this sport.

In any event, according to the Thoroughbred Times, Animal Kingdom is going to return to the track at Fair Hill, where trainer Graham Motion is based, and that return could come as early as Wednesday. Fair Hill's training track is synthetic, a surface that suits both horse and trainer. According to Barry Irwin, spokesperson for the investor team that owns Animal Kingdom, "Graham is confident training on a synthetic surface."

As for trainer Motion, well he normally would not work a horse expected to race in two weeks. "But this isn't a normal situation," he admitted.

What is interesting is the difference in opinions between owner and trainer regarding the horse's ability to recoup and race again in two weeks. Irwin "really wants to think about it" and Motion says, "if he is physically fine, we're going."

So Wednesday could be shades of Barbaro, with press camped out track side at bucolic Fair Hill to see if they can discern Animal Kingdom's physical state. Luckily Fair Hill has proved it knows how to handle hordes as well as horses and Motion can always walk over to Michael Matz's barn and get a few pointers.

It is eerie, isn't it? Another Kentucky Derby winner leaves from Fair Hill for the Preakness. We all know how the first one ended, but I have a feeling this one may take an entirely different route.

So far, other contenders for the Preakness are Mucho Macho man, who finished third in the Derby, Shackleford, who finished fourth and Dialed In who finished eighth. The field will fluctuate a lot in the next two weeks so it is probably a better idea to focus on one day at a time.

Which is exactly what Graham Motion is going to be doing.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Eagle and Puppy Cams

Way back when when son #1 was a tot, some robins built a nest in the holly tree outside of his window. The nest was actually eye level with the windows. We had shutters on the inside which was the perfect barrier to our curious eyes.

It was absolutely amazing to watch the progress of these baby robins from eggs to chicks to teens, when they ultimately left the nest and for years, robin would return to repeat the drama every Spring. We named them the same names every year!

There is still a nest in the tree and I think some Cardinals have taken it over, but for some reason, the drama now seems to be hidden by the rapid growth of the tree. I see Cardinals darting back and forth but I cannot see into the nest as we could with the robins. Maybe the nest has been relocated.

The point of all of this is that you too can have an eagle's eye view (pardon the pun, and you will see why in a moment) of nature at its finest by clicking onto the Eagle Cam mounted on a tree above an eagle's nest in Hampton Roads Virginia. Just click here and prepare to be mesmerized. The Eaglets are all fluff and their eyes are wide open. You can see them huddled together waiting for their mother to return with food and if you gaze long enough you'll catch mealtime.

And not to be outdone, check out this puppy cam featuring six of the cutest Shiba Inu pups you have ever seen.

Warning: Both are addictive.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Being in the Right Place at the Right Time

Isn't karma amazing? Graham Motion's Derby favorite, Toby's Corner comes up lame on Tuesday and all eyes turn away from his other horse, Animal Kingdom. Uncle Mo scratches leaving Johnny Velasquez without a mount. Robbie Albarado falls off a horse and is in doubt for the Derby. The pieces fall into place and what was once down becomes up. And you know the rest.

I will admit that there was a lot of screaming and jumping up and down chez moi yesterday afternoon when Animal Kingdom came roaring down the stretch in that easy to spot red cap. And the phone started ringing almost as soon as the horses crossed the finish line! My progeny had all cashed big tickets having for once listened to their mother--that alone makes for a superlative Mother's Day!

It was a great race and I thought the Derby coverage was excellent except for one horrible commercial for Ram trucks in which a guy trying to camp beside his pick up truck actually gets up and shoots a bird for chirping. Who screened that one for Derby Day on a day when a horse named Animal Kingdom wins the race? Talk about no karma.

Otherwise, no complaints from this camp. Did you catch how Barry Irwin leader of Team Valor said he switched trainers to Graham Motion because he was tired of trainers lying to him? And when the commentator pressed for details, like who exactly lied, he said "everyone."

Except for a British gentleman based at Fair Hill, who basically had his world turned upside down, all for the better, because he knows a thing or two about karma.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Derby Picks

The time has come to pick a horse or two or three for today's Kentucky Derby and so I will. Warning, I am a lousy handicapper, but it is always more fun to root for a horse than just watch the race--at least I think it is.

So, drum roll please. I like the following horses and depending on the odds, will probably bet them in some combination with each other: Animal Kingdom, Master of Hounds, and Soldat. Master of Hounds came out of nowhere, you might think, but he ran nicely in Dubai and I love the name! That said, horses that ship from Dubai have traditionally been no shows in the Derby but maybe it is time?

Speaking of time, I do think Graham Motion is due and therefore his horse, Animal Kingdom, is my sentimental favorite. He is a great trainer and would not run a horse that did not have a chance. For the record, I would have included Uncle Mo in the pack, had Uncle Mo been included by his connections but rumor has it that his ulcer--which is what that gastro-intestinal infection was--has not completely healed.

Soldat has a big finish and another great trainer and I got a very hot tip from a reliable source about him. Seriously. You might want to pay attention to this one.

All in all, it is a very tough race to call because that cattle shoot of twenty horses at the start always scares me to death. Winning the Kentucky derby has a lot to do with luck, timing and the horse racing gods. I think they just might be smiling on the Animal Kingdom this year and if I am right, it will be a huge exacta!!!!!!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Take Your Pick!

And here they are in post position order, the twenty horses in the Kentucky Derby as of Thursday AM, when I wrote this blog.

Note Calvin Borel close to rail on a 25-1 shot; Archarcharch likely to be socked in on the rail; don't rule out Pants on Fire at #7 or Master of Hounds at #11--both good posts in a field this large.

The other place to keep your eye is on the 16, 17 and 18 posts--three horses with good chances right in a row. Can Uncle Mo win from that far out? It all depends on how they break and how quickly they get to the rail, a feat made much more difficult by the sheer number of horses in their respective paths.

So how does this change the way you see the race?

DERBY 137 Post Position Draw - with comments from announcers/attendees

#1 Archarcharch

#2 Brilliant Speed - good spot for a closer

#3 Twice the Appeal - Calvin Borel close to the rail! 25-1

#4 Stay Thirsty Pletcher - wry smile - was hoping for #11

#5 Decisive Moment - Gary Stevens says this not ideal - set up for early speed duel

#6 Comma To The Top

#7 Pants On Fire R. Napravnik

#8 Dialed In J. Leparoux

#9 Derby Kitten Ken Ramsey - BIG smile

# 10 Twinspired Mike Smith

#11 Master of Hounds

# 12 Santiva S. Bridgmohan

#13 Mucho Macho Man Cheers from Cathy Ritvo

#14 Shackleford

#15 Midnight Interlude Baffert fist in air - happy

# 16 Animal Kingdom - Robby Albarado - good spot for a horse not used to dirt kickback

# 17 Soldat A. Garcia Mclaughlin happy to be outside of the speed

#18 Uncle Mo J. Velasquez Pletcher & Repole seem okay with it G. Stevens says post not bad

#19 Nehro - no Derby ever won from this post - not bad post for a closer

#20 Watch Me Go - R. Bejarano - tough spot

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Graham Motion's Other Horse

Remember Fair Hill, the equine training center that Michael Matz calls home when he is not in Florida? Where Barbaro was turned out after his victory in the Derby, a feat that still astonishes many trainers who prefer to have their expensive charges hand walked and grazed at all times? Well, the bucolic Maryland training center is also home base to another trainer who has a horse in this year's Kentucky Derby, Graham Motion.

He actually had two until Tuesday. The headliner was Toby's Corner, at least until he came up lame on Monday. The other is Animal Kingdom, who is currently stabled at Keeneland, and is a longshot worth considering.

Graham Motion is British and trains horses the European way, which is why Fair Hill suits him. He believes that every horse deserves the opportunity to be a horse; he routinely turns them out and lets them go for hacks in the woods and along the rolling hills and he never races a horse under medication. Never. "If they came out tomorrow and said there can be no medications at all, it wouldn't affect us in the slightest. I think too many people use it as a crutch," he told the New York Times.

The two horses that made him the well respected trainer that he is, Gala Spinaway, his first stakes winner and Better Talk Now, his first Breeder's Cup winner, are both retired and pensioned at his Fair Hill operation. "They are lovely animals and will always have a home with us," he said.

There are so many variables in the Kentucky Derby not the least of which are the enormous field, the raucous crowd and the circus that is light years away from Fair Hill. But if there was ever a time that horse racing needed an ambassador it is now and I can't think of a better one than Graham Motion.

I'm hoping that Animal Kingdom gets a safe trip and stalks the prey right to the winner's circle!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Toby's Corner Out of Derby

This changes everything. My pick, Toby's corner, came up lame yesterday and is no longer entered in the Derby. Who is, you might ask? Well, as of yesterday at 6:00 pm, the field looked like this:

UPDATED: The current Top 20 (+2) Graded Earnings (from Kentucky Derby.com) now looks like this:

1-Uncle Mo
2-Dialed In
4-Comma to the Top
5-Pants On Fire
6-Midnight Interlude
8-Brilliant Speed
9-Master of Hounds (IRE)
10-Twice the Appeal
12-Mucho Macho Man
13-Decisive Moment
14-Animal Kingdom
15-Stay Thirsty
17-Watch Me Go
20-Derby Kitten

21-Mr. Commons
22-Sway Away

The post positions will be drawn today so we will finally know who will actually be running in this wide-open event.

So now I must reconsider. I am liking Animal Kingdom, Master of the Hounds--coming off the turf, which is always a good thing, and there is a lot of buzz about Shackleford, who is apparently giving the Clydesdales a run for their money because of his size.

And don't forget Uncle Mo or Soldat who are both contenders. I am not feeling the Mucho Macho Man vibes or those around Dialed In, who is apparently the best looking horse in the field. Archarcharch has many fans and Rosie Napravnik, who rode Nicanor at Delaware Park, is on Pants on Fire.

Obviously I need to rethink this entire adventure. What about you?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Inside the Horse Meat Black Market

If you can stomach it, this is a trailer from a show to be televised on ESPN at 6:30 PM. EST tonight about the black market in Florida for horse meat. An SPCA volunteer is on a mission to bring this practice, unique to Florida (at least I hope so), to an end. Fitting that in Kentucky Derby week we should remember that not all thoroughbreds end up running for the roses.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Roaring Back

Well, I have returned from one of the most incredible weekends of my life, a celebration of women at Princeton University. Suffice it to say that from the moment I got there (Friday lunch) until the moment I left (Sunday around 10:00 AM), I was energized, revitalized and so very proud of being part of making history at a place that didn't go out of its way to make it easy to be a pioneer.

It was remarkable and inspiring to be surrounded by 1,400 powerful women. Enough said.

Meanwhile, new legislation has been introduced by Representative Edward Whitfield of Kentucky and Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico to create new penalties for trainers whose horses test positive for drugs. The legislation will come under the Interstate Horseracing Act of 1978, which permits simulcast wagering to take place across state lines.

"...American racing medication policies are not only out of step with an increasing number of the world's racing nations, but out of step with an increasing number of the world's racing nations, but out of step with other major league sports in our backyard," says James L. Gagliano, the president and chief operating officer of the Jockey Club.

The New York Times reports that "nearly every horse that goes to post in the United States is given medication." The penalties to trainers are very stiff in this new legislation, including a permanent ban from all activities related to racing for a third offense. The Times also points out that of the top 20 trainers in the United States (based on purse winnings), "only 2, Christophe Clement and Graham Motion, have never been cited for a medication violation."

To all of which, I can only say, what I told the president of Princeton at the dinner held on Saturday night, "Thank you. It's about time."